Monday, April 11, 2016

Metaphorically speaking

You may remember that back in February I participated in the Nonfiction 10 for 10 event.  Besides getting me to really think about which nonfiction books I find indispensable, I gleaned titles of many books from other participants, too.

The Tin Forest by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson is one of these books.
In terms of a classroom resource there’s a lot to recommend:

*language arts – metaphor
*science/social studies – environmental issues; interconnectedness;
*storytelling and everyday life connections – pursuing dreams, living creatively, imagination, and hope.

If you remember the movie Wall-E from a few years back and enjoyed it, this book may work for you.

There is an old man who lives in a place “near nowhere and close to forgotten” that is barren of other life.  There are no plants or animals, only vast piles of other people’s garbage that the old fellow spends his time trying to dispose of.  Yet, nightly he dreams of verdant forests abundant with many creatures, great and small. His dream inspires him to create his own forest made from the refuse that surrounds him.  Slowly a forest is born and with it comes a stray bird who brings his mate to take up residence in the man-made forest. 

They also bring seeds that grow into plants that attract other creatures -- and eventually the forest becomes the forest of the old man’s dream. It is colourful and beautiful and filled with life. The “build-it-and-they-will-come” theme is prevalent and conveys a sense of hope that an individual can make a difference and fulfill their dreams.

The illustrations are terrific, with a real steampunk vibe.  Though the birds, insects, other creatures, plants and trees that the man create are made out of scraps of metal and other odds and ends, they definitely have a friendly look to them. The coloring throughout the book perfectly reflects the mood being conveyed: grey and dismal in the beginning when all we see is an open landscape filled with garbage; sparks of colour are introduced as the man-made forest is being created; and finally, a warmly, fully coloured two-page spread filled with life.

Though the book is metaphorical, I didn’t think it is too overdone.  The environmental themes are obvious but not heavy-handed.  The forest grows quickly and the old man never ages but that’s beside the point of the story.

I recommend this book for elementary and middle grades.


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